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In the current hiring climate — where small businesses are working overtime to find and retain workers — the importance of offering benefits is more essential than ever in staffing.
As the workforce continues to shift, small-business owners are often overwhelmed by the financial hurdles and administrative burden that come with offering health insurance. There’s a good reason for that — buying health insurance can be expensive and confusing.
However, there are a few steps small-business owners can take to help demystify the process and learn how to balance cost and benefits to make sure their employees are getting quality coverage and the business is not breaking the bank. It’s a vital part of getting hiring companies and potential employees to get to “Yes, we do” — and stay there in the long run. Here are some answers to some of the most frequent questions businesses have about buying health insurance.
Monthly premiums are where people turn their immediate attention and the results can vary wildly to the point that plans with similar benefits and co-pays may have a price difference of up to 30 percent. It’s important to be able to compare standard plan designs between multiple carriers, something that the state makes possible through the Massachusetts Health Connector. Easing the burden are wellness programs that help businesses save up to 15 percent off their premiums — these are only available for small businesses who offer coverage through the Health Connector.
The cost of a health care plan is a balance of a number of factors including the size of a provider network and benefits covered as part of a health insurance plan.
In most plans, a significant expense for members (employees and their covered dependents) are additional, out-of-pocket costs — typically deductibles and co-pays — for which the member has to plan. Co-pays are what the member pays at the doctor’s office for services or at the pharmacy for a prescription. A deductible is an amount a member pays for services before insurance coverage kicks in, up to a certain amount. Plans that have higher out-of-pocket costs, such as large deductibles, generally have lower premiums.
Some carriers have very large networks that include most — if not all — of the providers in the state. Some have narrower networks. If a doctor is in the narrower network, you likely will pay less in premiums. Each carrier has its own network of doctors, hospitals, and other providers like specialists. You can check online or call a carrier or doctor to see if they accept a particular insurance plan.
Finding the right plan for all of your employees can be difficult. People at different points in their lives have different health care needs. There are some models where a business can set costs based on one plan, but give employees the flexibility to pick their own plan to best meet their needs.
You absolutely don’t have to go at it alone. There are insurance brokers in your community who understand the marketplace and can help you find a good plan that is cost-effective for you and your employees.
Chaitra Sanders is the Associate Director of Health Connector for Business. She specializes in empowering small businesses to find affordable health coverage for employees.
The Massachusetts Health Connector is the state’s health insurance exchange, providing health and dental insurance to more than 250,000 people. The Health Connector for Business platform provides options for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to compare plans and save on premiums, offer additional plan choice flexibility to employees, and for companies with 25 or fewer employees, save 15 percent through the ConnectWell program.
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